Friday, March 2, 2012

The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul-Deborah Rodriguez

The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul

Deborah Rodriguez

Ballantine, Mar 20 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780345514769

Thirty-eight-year-old Alabama expatriate Sunny Tedder runs the Kabul Coffee House while her boyfriend Tommy works as a mercenary. Sunny expected her customers to be Westerners. However, she offers a job and a room to pregnant widow Yazmina, whose uncle sold her to pay off a debt; they dumped her when they realized she was pregnant. Her landlady profanity spouting widow Halajan cuts her hair short, wears jean skirts, and carries love letters while using the traditional burqa as a disguise; while the woman’s son Ahmet is angry at his mom for her relationship with Rashif the tailor.

While Bashir Hadi the street corner philosopher manages the coffee house, others join the group. BBC journalist Isabel reports on the poppy fields’ addicted female workers arrested for "moral crimes" and Candace in town to raise funds for a school, but thinks her boyfriend has other motives. Then there is married Jack the contractor.

This is a deep tale that puts mostly female faces to Afghanistan. When the focus is inside the heads of the women, the audience obtains a profound look at the cross cultural interests of people who bring to life an attempt at normalcy in Kabul during a horrific conflict. When the men take the lead, some of the insightfulness dissipates. Still this is an engaging glimpse into Kabul, a remarkable place considering its history.

Harriet Klausner

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